WASHINGTON Jul 23 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday hailed his White House meeting with President Donald Trump as a “pleasant surprise,” saying the Pakistani side was blown over by the U.S. leader’s welcome and conversation.
“It was a pleasant surprise. We were all blown over. We loved the meeting,” Imran Khan said speaking at the US Institute of Peace, a day after more than three hours meetings.
Imran Khan said Pakistan and the U.S. now had the best relationship in years. “Now we will ensure that there is no communication gap,” between the two sides, he said referring to years of trust deficit between the two countries in the past.
He said his government had “stabilized the economy” which he inherited in a state of virtual bankruptcy
“Now we can move ahead and start reforms,” he said, citing his government’s agenda of improving the education sector, stepping economic growth, expanding tax collection, boosting exports and narrowing fiscal account deficit.
He said Kashmir dispute had held back development in South Asia. Kashmir should be resolved as per aspirations of Kashmiri people, he added.
“There is a solution and the solution has to be with the will of the Kashmiri people.”
He also spoke about Islamabad’s efforts to launch peace bids with India and improve ties with Afghanistan.
The worst phase in the Pakistan-US relationships was over, he said referring to years when the U.S. escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan region and Pakistan fought America’s war on terror at a high human and economic cost, but was still not trusted.
Imran Khan recalled his meetings with Democrats in 2009, and said he tried to explain to them that there was going to be no military solution, but felt they had no understanding of Afghanistan. “Fortunately this time, people now understand,” he added.
“We are all on the same page that is why we have the best relationship now in years,” Imran Khan said regarding President Trump’s ongoing quest to find a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict.
“Peace in Afghanistan will come about through peace talks,” he said.
Referring to the ongoing process of facilitating talks with the Taliban, he said,
“If we all work together then this is the best chance for peace in Afghanistan.”
The prime minister said now that he had spoken to President Trump and President Ghani, he would meet Taliban when he went back to Pakistan. The militant group should talk to the Afghan government, he added.
To a question about censorship on press in Pakistan, the Prime Minister said the present government would be the most inclusive government as for as the freedom of press was concerned.
“Pakistan media is even free than British media,” the prime minister said adding that strengthening media watchdogs was not censorship.
He said he himself was the biggest beneficiary of free media as he forwarded his message to the people through media. But added that media should avoid personal attacks and not a become party.
About minorities issue, the prime minister said that the minorities had full protection in Pakistan and what the present government had done for them, no government had done before.
Referring to the case of Aasia Bibi, a blasphemy accused, the prime minister said when the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her, thousands of protestors mainly belonging to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) came on the streets in protest, but the government took them out and put their leadership in jails.“We are treating our minorities as equal citizens as according to Pakistani Constitution minorities are equal citizens of the country,” the prime minister added.
He said that Pakistan wanted its ties with the US based on mutual trust and as equal partners sans seeking any aid.
“Pakistan does not seek a friendship of the past, which was based on seeking aid from the US,” the prime minister responded to a question when asked about his final words to sum up his US visit.
After his maiden visit to the US, Imran Khan said , he was happy to have a dignified relationship between the two countries with a mutual trust over peace process in Afghanistan.
He said he hated the phrase ‘aid’ when someone asked about it and termed this expression as ‘one of the biggest curses for his country.’ The prime minister said “the dependent syndrome was the most humiliating for a country.”
A country could not rise through self-respect and self-esteem and not by begging, he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his government was rebuilding the state institutions which bore the brunt of previous rulers’ unchecked corruption through money laundering.
He said corruption was a major threat to Pakistan’s economy and when the PTI government came to power, the country was at the brink of being declared bankrupt.
He said the previous ruling elite had targeted the state institutions by weakening them as in the presence of strong anti-graft institutions, they could not have laundered the money abroad.
“Rebuilding these institutions may take time and we are rebuilding them,” though the process would be slow, he said.
He termed the flight of money in the developing countries through money laundering as the biggest threat than hunger and poverty.
The prime minister said when he formed his political party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) on the anti corruption platform, people could not relate corruption with the ruling classes. But suddenly, people realized the threat and his party took-off forming provincial and federal governments.